An attempt to balance Indigenous rights, the environment, and wildlife . . .
Taiwan's Constitutional Court released its verdict last Friday on a case examining Indigenous hunting rights. The Court upheld two laws that restrict hunting but struck down parts within those laws that had required Indigenous hunters to apply for hunting permits and specify in advance which animals they would hunt. The Court justified its decision by noting the need to balance protecting Indigenous hunting culture, the environment, and wildlife – all of which are recognized under Taiwan's Constitution. The verdict was immediately seen as a setback for the Indigenous rights movement and a win for animal rights groups.
A case eight years in the making . . .
In 2013, Talum Suqluman (also known as Tama Talum), an Indigenous Bunun man, was charged with using a modified firearm to hunt protected animals and later sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Talum appealed the charges, arguing that he had been following tribal customs and was hunting for his ailing mother, who was accustomed to eating wild game. The Supreme Court suspended his sentence but refused to overturn the charges. Talum continued to fight the conviction on the basis that Taiwan's laws infringed on Indigenous hunting rights, and in 2017 the Supreme Court passed the case to the Constitutional Court. The laws in question only permit hunting certain animals after government approval and only with homemade guns and traps.
Constitution, laws, and practices up for further debate . . .
Authorities have unevenly enforced hunting laws in Taiwan, which is home to 16 government-recognized Indigenous tribes with a total population of about 580,000, or 2.5 per cent of the island's population. The government ban on commercial hunting in 1989 has helped previously threatened animal species recover, but Indigenous hunters argue that their subsistence hunting did, and does, not contribute to that problem. Given the close relationship between Indigenous hunting practices, rights, and culture, it is likely that as Indigenous people continue hunting, so too will related arrests, protests, and court challenges.